Comics / Spotlight / Black Astronaut

Static #5 (Milestone Media)

By Leroy Obama Douresseaux
August 27, 2008 - 12:57

Static #5 cover by John Paul Leon, Joseph James, and Noelle C. Giddings

With Dwayne McDuffie focusing on editing Static, his former co-writer, Robert L. Washington, III, settled in as the series’ sole writer (mid-1993), and the series lost none of the edge and originality that marked it as one of the best new comic book series to debut in the last quarter of the 20th century.  In some ways, Static resembled The Amazing Spider-Man under the helm of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, but 30 years after the debut of the beloved web-swinging hero, Virgil Hawkins A.K.A. Static, also an angsty, urban-based, teen hero, lives in a world that is more diverse and divisive.

Static shares Spider-Man’s struggles to both fight obvious good and obvious evil, but also to find the truth in complicated matters, especially when good people take up bad means.  This is immediately made clear in the “Louder than a Bomb” storyline which opens in Static #5 (Chapter One: Megablast).  This narrative focuses on Static playing mediator between warring factions of Jews and African-Americans.  The story opens with a riot on the grounds of a synagogue and moves onto the aftermath of another temple bombing.  As religious leaders struggle to bring peace between the city’s Jews and African-Americans, the villain, Commando X (the guy stirring up all the sh*t), makes his boldest move.

Writer Robert L. Washington, III offers such an invigorating balance of flavors and moods: sweet and bitter and dark and light.  As were the other issues, Static #5 is adept at being both an entertaining superhero comic book and a social tract primarily because Washington doesn’t separate the fantasy of Virgil Hawkins being a superhero and the reality of his social and economic environment.  Watching Static in action or Virgil hanging with his friends is sweet, while the reality of their personal and professional (superhero) conflicts are often bitter.  Even through the difficulties of battles, Virgil’s life as a superhero is (thus far) bright and electric, but his home life is, with his critical mother and sister, is depressing and glum.

Of course, readers may often find themselves focusing on the colorful superhero fun.  Static follows in the tradition of Stan Lee’s witty teen hero Peter Parker/Spider-Man – verbally jousting with his adversaries while the substance of his situation, both as a hero and a teen, is infinitely more complex.  Washington, as a solo writer and earlier as co-writer with Dwayne McDuffie, follows the classic Spidey tradition three decades later.  Washington offers the electrically-powered Static (who moves around on a manhole cover he powers into a kind of flying boogie board) battling the bad guys, except that in Static #5, the adversary isn’t just a colorfully-garbed villain, but a mob of ordinary citizens seething with their perceived and genuine ethnic slights.

Virgil/Static’s ability to balance light and dark, good and evil, and to even mediate is best epitomized not in a superhero moment in Static #5, but in a civilian moment.  When Virgil opines that perhaps African-Americans wouldn’t be so suspicious of Jews, if the latter remembered how they once shared the former’s struggle (and shared the wealth and power, so to speak), his almost-girlfriend of Jewish extraction, asks, “Is that all I am, another faceless member of a conspiracy?”  Like Peter Parker before him, Virgil is learning that there are no easy answers.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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